Peat will be mined from iwi wetlands north of Kaitaia under a proposal that is before the Northland Regional Council for consideration.
The company behind the proposed peat extraction wants to mine land previously drained by gumdiggers in the Kaimaumau area. The peat holds potentially lucrative chemicals which can be drawn off and used for highly sought-after industrial polishes and sealants.
Resin & Wax company director John Cunningham told the Northland Age Ngai Takoto owns the land, his firm has the technology and an agreement has been made to work on the project.
The scheme also has the backing of the council's economic development agency, Northland Inc.
"We are trying to make a positive difference while being sensitive to the area," said Mr Cunningham.
"We are looking at about 35 jobs so we wouldn't be the biggest employer but, of about 35, we would have about 30 locals. If things went well, it could be running in 2017. It means the jobs we are talking about could be available by late 2016."
Mr Cunningham said he wouldn't be surprised to encounter some opposition to the scheme, saying the proposal would have more impact than restoring it to natural wetlands but much less impact than swamp kauri extraction.
"We are talking about around 20ha per year. It's not a wholesale change, like a small paddock per year."
Northland Inc chief executive David Wilson said the economic development agency had been looking at the peat extraction proposal for almost two years and had approved it for consideration by the regional council.
"We will be presenting our report to the council, and it will be considered in confidence because of the commercial sensitivity of the proposal."
Mr Wilson said the scheme had passed a "high hurdle" to have Northland Inc board approval.
Ngai Takoto chief executive Rangitane Marsden said the idea had already been mooted before the iwi gained control of the land, which had been massively exploited over the years.
"As it is, it's a liability for us," he said.
The biggest threat to the Kaimaumau area is Australian wattle, Mr Marsden said.
"If we don't do something, it will become the biggest wattle forest in Northland."
For that reason, he said peat mining was being considered plus honey production, kauri log extraction and a wetlands conservation area.
"Our view is, if it takes five years or 10 years to get this operation going, that's fine," he said. "It's up to them to convince us they can get it right. By creating 30 jobs, we could virtually employ all of Kaimaumau."